HOUSTON, Texas – Mississippi State won its 10th straight season opener with a hard-earned 76-68 win over Houston in women’s basketball action Friday night at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Freshman Breanna Richardson led the MSU offensive attack with 14 points. Kendra Grant added 13 points, including 11 in the second half, as MSU won while playing a season opener on the road for the first time since 2003.
“I thought our kids really battled through some adversity and foul trouble tonight,” MSU second-year head coach Vic Schaefer said. “To have five kids in double figures speaks a lot to our balance and skill set. I was impressed that our kids, in their youth and inexperience, didn’t get rattled and hung in there all night.”
Junior Savannah Carter added 12 points in her Maroon and White debut and fell one rebound shy of collecting a double-double. Sherise Williams added 11 points and nine bounds as well. Martha Alwal added 10 points and seven rebounds, despite fouling out in the early stages of the second half.
The Bulldogs finished with a plus-10 rebounding advantage and never trailed after erasing an early 3-2 lead by the hosts.
A bucket by Alwal put the Maroon and White in the lead for good and also sparked a 14-0 run. Richardson scored six of her eight first-half points during that run. The Bulldogs held the Cougars to one field goal over the first seven minutes-plus and led 16-3.
Houston answered with a 9-0 run only to see MSU push the lead back to double digits with six points of its own. Down 22-11, the Cougars turned up the defensive pressure and benefited from foul issues for the Bulldogs to close within 31-29 at the intermission.
Like they did in the opening half, the Bulldogs started the second stanza with a very strong push. MSU opened the half with a 14-3 run and ran the lead to 45-32 with 16:19 left.
Carter and Grant each added four points during the run, which was capped by the first collegiate points from Dominique Dillingham, a native of nearby Spring, Texas.
For MSU, Katia May set the tone from the point guard position. A senior from York, Ala., May had a career-high 11 assists with no turnovers. She tied for the second-most assists by a Bulldog senior in a game and the fifth-most overall.
“It starts with your point guard and 11 assists and no turnovers in 38 minutes is a heck of a night,” Schaefer said. “I’m going to say she (May) is probably leading the country in assist-turnover ratio. That’s something (assistant coach) Aqua (Franklin) has worked very hard with her on. Our post players had 27 of our 31 points at halftime and (associated head coach) Johnnie Harris has done a really good job working with them.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 28 of 75 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 1 of 7 shots from 3-point range (14.3 percent) and 19 of 30 shots from the foul line (63.3 percent). The Cougars hit 18 of 57 shots from the field (31.6 percent), 7 of 14 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 25 of 39 shots from the free throw line (64.1 percent).
MSU held a 54-44 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 19 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Cougars had 12 assists and 22 turnovers.
Houston received 18 second-half points from Jessieka Parker, 12 points from Tyler Gilbert and 10 points from Marissa Ashton.MSU will open the home portion of its schedule by playing host to Jackson State Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.